John Holmes

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

I work mainly on the interface between science and the arts in the period from 1800 to the present. I have written books on Darwinism and poetry and on the Pre-Raphaelites and science, and edited or co-edited collections of essays on nineteenth-century literature and science and on science in modern poetry. My current research has two main strands, looking respectively at the role of the arts and architecture within natural history museums and at the cross-fertilisation between mythic literature and evolutionary science over the last two hundred years. In the course of my research and public engagement work, I have collaborated extensively with scientists and scientific institutions, including the Royal Society and the natural history museums in Oxford, London, Berlin and Vienna.


  • D.Phil. In English Literature, Oxford, 2001
  • M.A. in Renaissance Studies, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, 1997
  • B.A. in English Language and Literature, Oxford, 1994


I was born and grew up in London, before moving to Oxford to do my undergraduate degree, back to London for my MA, and back to Oxford, where I completed a doctorate on ‘The Victorian Sonnet Sequence and the Crisis of Belief’ in 2001. After teaching briefly for the Open University, I got a job as lecturer in English literature at the University of Reading. I taught at Reading from 2001 to 2015 before joining Birmingham as Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

Literature and science from 1800 to the present; literature and the visual arts; the Pre-Raphaelites; Victorian and modern poetry; poetic form, particularly the sonnet and the epic.